Ever been charged a bank fee you didn’t expect?
I’m usually pretty good at managing my banking and finances, however, sometimes I do slip up (such as letting my account go into overdraft, or missing a credit card payment).
Then I get charged a $10 or $15 late fee or overdraft fee.
I know it’s not life-changing money, but it still annoys me like crazy.
I hate paying money for nothing.
However, usually I just let them slide and get over it.
Then one time, I genuinely didn’t receive my credit card statement in the mail.
Normally that’s my reminder – I get the statement in the mail, then jump online and pay.
I got charged a fee for missing the payment, and thought no way I’m paying this.
I called the bank up and said, I always pay this card on time, but I never received my statement this month. Could you look into it?
And just like that – she waived the late payment fee.
I didn’t even specifically ask her.
I just said, I’ve been charged a late fee, but I never received a statement asking for payment.
She tinkered on her keyboard, double checked my address on file was correct, and then said, no problem, I’ve waived the fee for you.
I was amazed.
Since then, whenever I get charged a bank fee, in 100% of cases I’ve been able to get it overturned. That’s right – 100%. I’ve never had anyone say no.
Here’s an example.
I was on holiday recently and missed one of my credit card payments.
It was a card I barely use and I simply forgot.
When I saw the late fee, I sent customer service a message telling them politely that I missed the payment as I was on holiday and if they would please consider waiving my late fee:
The next day, I had this message in my inbox:
And guess what I saw on my next statement?
Just like that, I saved $19.
All it took was a simple message that took about 30 seconds to write.
And here’s the great thing – everyone can do this.
It’s not like I have the most expensive platinum credit card so I get special treatment.
Literally, every single credit card I have is a free card – I refuse to pay bank fees.
If you’d like to do this next time you get charged a fee, I’m going to give you a script you can follow to get your fees waived as well.
However, here are a few general pointers that are important to keep in mind first.
My Dad always tells me this story of when he was at the airport, and a guy was in front of him at the ticketing desk. He was really pissed off about his ticket and kicking up a storm and raising his voice. Finally, the lady said he would need to provide a photocopy of something before she could process whatever he wanted to do. He said, “Well where the hell am I supposed to get a photocopy at the airport?!?” And the lady simply smiled and said – “Over there is a bookstore that does photocopies” and the man stormed off.
Next was my Dad’s turn. He had a similar problem. However, my Dad was extremely polite. She also told my Dad he needed a photocopy of something, but then she said, “That’s no problem though, I can just do that for you here,” and turned around and simply made a copy of what he needed using the photocopier behind her. Obviously, my Dad had seen what she did to the guy before him, and they simply both had a laugh about it.
This is the magic of being nice! If you’re nice, people will do nice things for you. Therefore, whenever you call trying to get a fee waived etc, always speak in a calm voice, and be as polite as possible, and just be a pleasant person to talk to.
Use the word “because”.
A few years ago, I read a great book that I think back to often.
It was called INFLUENCE: The Psychology of Persuasion.
In it, he explores the reason why people do things.
How exactly do companies persuade you to buy things?
How do people persuade others to do them favours, or go on dates, or come to events?
When you donate to a charity, exactly what did that charity do to make you go into your wallet and actually take out money and hand it over?
One thing that was extremely persuasive, especially when asking for favours, was the word “because”.
Read this extract:
Let me break that down for you.
They ran an experiment where someone in an office would ask if they could skip ahead of the line at the photocopy machine.
They found that if you said “Could I skip ahead of the line because I’m in a rush?“, 94% of the time it worked.
They found that if you just said “Could I skip ahead of the line?”, only 60% of the time it worked.
You might think, well of course, if you’re in a rush, more people will let you go.
But then they found if you said, “Could I skip ahead of the line because I have to make some copies?”, 93% of the time it worked.
It turned out, simply giving a reason, even if the reason is complete nonsense (I need to make some copies…), people are much more likely to say yes.
I remember once when I was travelling with some people in Europe, I was almost caught out by this myself.
I owed a guy 74 euros.
When it came time to pay him, he asked, “Could we just round it up to 80 euros, because it’s not much more.”
I was literally a split second from just saying “Yeah, okay” when I caught myself and thought, “Wait, because it’s not much more? What kind of stupid reason is that!”
It sounds silly, but I was amazed at how easily I was about to just agree, it was a natural reaction.
However, luckily I had just read the book INFLUENCE a few months earlier, so I understood my reaction and adjusted it.
In the end I just said, “No, why would we round it?”
He just smiled.
Part of me wonders whether maybe he had read INFLUENCE as well and was trying his luck from the other side!
Use their name
In the timeless book How To Win Friends And Influence People, they talked about how President Roosevelt was so loved and respected in the White House, because he addressed everybody from the cleaners to gardeners by their first name.
When you address someone by their name, it often takes them by surprise because it’s quite uncommon, especially when you don’t know them personally or have just met.
It shows you’re paying attention to this particular person.
You’re actually treating them like a human being.
It gives them a feeling of importance.
When you make people feel important, it makes them feel good.
This makes them far more likely to do nice things for you.
Scripts: How To Get Your Bank Fees Waived
Now – bearing all these tips in mind, let’s talk about what you should actually say in this situation.
Let’s say you’re calling the bank on their 0800 number.
When you get connected to the customer service agent, think of it from their shoes.
If they’re reversing your fees, it’s not their money.
They’re just doing a job.
So they’re probably more than happy to do this for you if they want to.
That’s your job – make them want to do it.
They’ve also probably been sitting there for four hours listening to people complain.
So, remember, be nice, and use their name, and don’t forget to use the word because.
It might go something like this:
Them: “Hi, this is ASB Customer Service you’re talking with Anna, how may I assist you today?“
You: “Oh! Hi Anna, how’s your day going today?“
(she might pause for a second here. Often you catch them by surprise by being this nice and using their name).
Them: “I’m good! How are you?”
You: “I’m really good, thank you for asking. I had something pop up in my account today, I was hoping you might be able to help me out quickly?“
Them: “Sure, what’s the problem?“
Notice what a different interaction this is already?
Instead of just calling up and saying, “I got charged a late fee, can you waive it please?”, in less than ten seconds you’ve built a small (but important) amount of rapport with her and she’s already agreed to try and solve your “problem”.
Here’s what you might say next:
You: “It looks like I missed my credit card payment and got charged a late fee. I would like to get that reversed if possible because it’s the first time this has happened and I’ve already cleared the payment. Is there any chance you could help me do that?”
In my experience, if you do this step right, this will be enough to get it waived probably 90% of the time.
Notice how I used the word because, and I’ve asked nicely.
There’s a big difference between asking “Is there any chance you could help?” versus “Can you waive my fee?”
One is requesting, the other is telling.
What comes next might sound something like this:
Them: “Sure, let me look into that for you, would you mind holding for a moment?”
You: “Of course not, take as long as you need. Thanks so much.”
Them: “I’ve confirmed we can waive that fee for you, you should see a reversal on your statement. Is there anything else I can help you with today?”
That’s literally it – all you needed to do was be nice and ask once.
Now sometimes, you might get a tougher agent on the phone who won’t reverse it when you first ask.
It might sound something like this:
Them: “Yes I see your late payment fee here. Unfortunately I’m not able to waive that for you today, late payment fees are (bla bla bla, some reason).”
All you need to do here is be nice and ask again.
You: “Well, I always pay my card on time and it won’t happen again. Is there chance you could take another look and see if you can help me out?
In this situation – if you’ve been nice – it is very, very difficult for a human to just say “No”.
You’ve persisted a little, so she knows it’s quite important to you to get this fee waived, and taking no for an answer isn’t an easy option for you.
At this point, if there is something she is able to do for you, she will try and do it. So it’s very likely she’ll put you on hold, go away and come back saying her supervisor has allowed her to waive the fee or something similar.
However, if not, the last thing you can try is to question whether you want to continue using the card if the fees aren’t waived. Of course – it’s essential to still be nice.
You: “I understand it’s not a huge amount of money, but I’d really like this fee waived because I’m kind of on a strict budget this month and you’d really be helping me out. I’ve been a happy customer since 20XX and don’t want that to change. You can see this was just a one-off and I always pay my bill on time. Could you take a second look and see if there’s something you can do to help?”
Banks spend a lot of money trying to get credit card customers, and definitely do not want to lose card customers over a $15 fee.
If you still get a “No” at this stage, it’s likely because the agent actually cannot waive the fee (she doesn’t have permission, or maybe they’ve been given instructions to not waive late fees for whatever reason, or something like that).
But here’s the best part about this whole thing: That’s the worst that can happen.
They say no.
There’s literally no downside.
If you call up and they say Yes, you’ve got your fees waived in a couple of minutes.
If you call up and they say No, nothing’s changed. You wasted two minutes of your life.
Try it and see.
The results might surprise you!